The tagline for the new movie, Justice League, is:
Many non-profits, especially new and small ones, have a tendency to work toward their mission alone and rarely collaborate with others who have similar goals. The reasons are understandable but this lone wolf mentality hurts the mission and the organization misses out on incredible opportunities. Here are some common reasons why this happens and why every executive director should intentionally work towards partnership and collaboration.
Non-profits are usually led by strong and passionate leaders who are completely committed to a cause. This mission is more than a job. It’s a purpose and life calling. It’s personal. When multiple executive directors come to the table to collaborate, it’s often difficult for them to compromise and work together, especially if they come from small organizations where they do everything and wear many hats.
Executive directors simply do not have enough time. The work of the mission, plus administrative duties, plus fundraising, is more than a full-time job. Add in the fact that many non-profit leaders need additional employment to pay the bills, and you get executive directors who never consider anything other than essential and critical tasks.
Most organizations are just trying to survive. The budget is tight and the end of the fiscal year is a mad dash to get into the black. Non-profits with similar missions are competing for the same grants and sometimes the same donors. There’s always a fear that a donor who has an interest in your cause might give to another organization with the same mission.
You literally can’t save the world alone. No one organization has ever accomplished their mission alone. If it did, then they’ve accomplished their mission and the non-profit is no longer needed. If more organizations work together, they will collectively have greater impact, and more people will be served. Isn’t that the whole point?
In general, it’s better to be excellent at a few things than to be mediocre at many things. Most non-profits are tackling complex problems that need to be approached from a variety of angles. Example: the problem of human trafficking needs to be addressed from laws and policy, prevention, law enforcement, aftercare, etc. Each area is also complex so no organization can do it all. The most effective non-profits focus on a specific area and have great partnerships that target others.
Knowledge is power. Most non-profits have a mountain-sized vision, but operate with limited resources. Partnering and collaborating with other organizations with the same goal exposes more brainpower to the same purpose. This is a win-win for everyone and there’s no better way to learn and gain knowledge than in community.
Executive directors and non-profit leaders have a difficult job. They are trying to change the world or their communities, often with limited time, resources, and expertise. It’s very common to feel isolated and alone, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Find out who else has the same vision and intentionally work towards partnership and collaboration. It’s difficult (mutual interest not guaranteed) and adds another task to the endless To Do List, but it is well worth it. In fact the mission might depend on it.